Definition & Overview
Burn and wound correction refer to medical procedures that reduce the visual impact of scars and other deformities left behind by the body's own healing process. Although scars are usually permanent, burn and wound correction specialists can soften their appearance by using several techniques that may include surgery.
Scars develop as a result of the body’s natural healing process. The skin, which is our largest organ, also acts as the body’s first line of defense. Although prone to injury, it has the ability to recover from wounds by activating connective tissue deep within the subcutaneous layer.
If the connective tissue does its job well, open wounds and sores will be sealed shut, but a scar is formed. The size and type of the scar depend on the size of the wound. While some scars are raised others are recessed. Some scars may even grow wider even the wound has completely healed.
The biggest problem is that these scars rarely match the surrounding skin making them highly visible. This might not be much of a problem if the scar is located in an area that is normally hidden by garments, but it can be quite embarrassing if it’s located in visible areas, such as the face or arms.
Scars are permanent, but with the help of a burn and wound correction specialist, their visibility can be significantly reduced.
Who Should Undergo and Expected Results
Individuals with scars on the body can seek treatment from a burn and wound correction specialist. However, the procedure is not for everyone. Patients eligibility will be assessed based on several factors including their lifestyle, physical health, skin condition, and mental attitude towards the procedure.
Among individuals who may not be considered for the procedure includes smokers. This is because smoking not only affects the skin’s ability to heal, but also its elasticity. Therefore, a smoker won’t respond to the treatment as well as a non-smoker would.
A person with health concerns, such as diseases or skin conditions, would also have problems responding well to scar revision treatment.
It’s also important to have a positive outlook when undergoing scar revision. Such an outlook can only be achieved by having realistic expectations. Burn and wound scars can only be hidden to a certain degree but they will never disappear completely. Precisely how much a certain scar can be hidden will depend on many factors, one of which is the skill level of the specialist.
How Does the Procedure Work
Several techniques can be used to correct burn and wound scars and the specialist will decide on what to employ primarily based on the size and type of scar the patient has.
For minor scars, topical treatments, such as ointments and gels that are designed to reduce the skin’s ability to produce pigments, are typically recommended. They work by making the scar less visible.
Meanwhile, injection therapy can be used for patients with recessed or raised scars. These medications act as fillers to treat recessed scars but can also reduce collagen in raised scars to lower them to almost the natural skin level.
Severe scarring may require surgery to remove the old scar and allow the skin to heal in such a way that the new scar is minimal. Surgical removal of a scar is a complex procedure especially if it involves skin replacement.
In most cases, a skin graft procedure is used to retrieve healthy skin from other areas of the body and transfer it to the affected area. If healthy skin cannot be obtained, pharmaceutical tissue substitutes can be used or a procedure called tissue expansion can be performed.
In a tissue expansion procedure, the skin near the affected area is expanded using an inflatable balloon. As the balloon expands, skin grows to accommodate the expansion. Once a sufficient amount of skin has grown, the excess skin is removed and is used to replace the scar tissue.
In some cases, scar tissue may not need to be replaced. Instead, the scar is surgically removed and the resulting wound is closed using special techniques, such as complex flap closure or layered closure.
Possible Risks and Complications
Burn and wound correction procedures, whether through surgical or non-surgical methods, present some risks and possibilities of complications. Medications used to alter scars have side effects. Also, even the use of topical ointments can result in certain forms of allergies in some people.
Surgical methods present more risks, which include infections, bleeding, damage to muscles, blood vessels, or nerves and permanent skin discoloration. There have been reports of changes in skin sensitivity and other complications, such as deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary complications and cardiac problems.
If a burn and wound correction specialist recommends surgery, candidates should be fully aware of these risks as they can sometimes outweigh the benefits of the procedure itself.
However, it’s important to understand that the risks can also be managed with proper care or even minimized by simply choosing the best possible surgeon and surgical facility. Thus, candidates should perform an in-depth research particularly when considering having the procedure performed in another country due to lower costs.
Candidates should also carefully consider the recovery period. Recovering from a burn and wound correction procedure can take anywhere from a few weeks to a couple of months depending on the scope of the procedure.
Bethel CA, Mazzeo AS. Burn care procedures. In: Roberts JR, Hedges JR, eds. Clinical Procedures in Emergency Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2009:chap 38.
Gallagher JJ, Wolf SE, Herndon DN. Burns. In: Townsend CM Jr, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 18th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2007:chap 22.